By Christina (Yelin) Chung
Kirsten Nunez proves to the world that she is more than a typical post-graduate New Yorker: as a Do-It-Yourself blogger and innovator, she studs jackets and makes vintage photo plates on a regular basis. Nunez, whose favorite projects range from fashion-related items all the way to home decor and altered art, says “I’ve been making and creating things for as long as I can remember.” Nunez cannot recall a time she wasn’t crafting: when asked what her first DIY was, she answered that “there wasn’t really just one project that I made one day…I’ve been crafting since I was pretty much born, and I have ever since”.
Nunez is the owner of Studs-and-Pearls.com, a DIY fashion blog that receives about 92,000 visits each month. She updates her blog a few times per week, but rather than the blog itself (which she says provides a small amount of income) it is the opportunities that arise from the blog that will become her main source of income, such as her upcoming book, titled ‘Studs and Pearls: 30 Creative Projects for Customized Fashion’.
“Fueled by the current state of the economy, fashion lovers have turned to DIY projects for an inexpensive, personalized means of dressing themselves…the process of creating and altering clothing and accessories highlights the artistic expression of fashion, as opposed to its monetary value”, says an excerpt of the book. Currently, the paperback version of the book is available on pre-order for $12.62 on Amazon.
Studs and Pearls has been featured on many international magazines such as EMMA, Glitter, I Spy DIY, and various websites like MSNBC, Yahoo! Shine and CNN.
All of these features has led up to the completion of her first book, the process of which she could only describe as crazy. “The world of becoming an author is a lot different than most people think”, Nunez explains, “it’s not just cut and dry, like ‘make some projects and send them in’.”
Creating projects was the easy part. “Most of it was a lot of editorial and computer work”, she says. The creation of the book also included following the publishing guidelines, photo shoots, and even preparing and making the documents coincide with each other to make a smooth flow of the 160 page book, which will be released on May 6th, 2014 by Laurence King Publishing.
After all the hard work, Nunez was relieved that the book was finally finished and ready for publication. “I can’t wait for it to be finally out there” she said. “It has really showed me how working hard can pay off in the long run, even if it is just a little bit at a time”. For now, she admits that she won’t be tackling any big projects soon, “I’m trying to relax after finishing the book”, she says.
Although her projects and pictures seem perfectly poised and accurately angled, flaws and trials are things that Kirsten Nunez regularly accepts as part of her life, and especially in the field of DIY. Like many successful people in today’s world, Kirsten also says that she has run into “creative roadblocks many times”, revealing that sometimes the ideas in her mind won’t “really translate into the actual technique or methods”.
She reveals that she “usually just put[s] it to the side, give it some time, and let a solution come naturally.” Sometimes, she indicates, the project(s) that have been put aside may stay in a state of creative suspension from “either a few days to a year.”
Nunez was born and raised in New York, and agrees that “being in and around New York City has really helped my creativity grow, because it is such an inspiring place.” In addition to being exposed to so many influences, she states that “it’s also a great source of materials, people and ideas”.
Nunez also finds her readers very relatable, considering herself to be just like her followers as the 24 year old calls herself “a normal girl like the rest of them, who just likes making things.” In her past, she has worked at Barneys NY, wrote DIY tutorials for WeHeartThis.com, and is also the former Accessories Guide for About.com. She began Studs and Pearls in July of 2010.
One of her recent blog posts includes tips on creating a pearl beanie, a seasonal trend this fall: Nunez puts up a few pictures of herself modeling with the finished product, and then provides visuals on strategically applying pearls to a hat she purchased. The project is simple: the only supplies needed are a beanie, flat back pearl embellishments, fabric glue and an optional sewing pin.
Eloquent, she said that she currently works a part-time retail job (non-DIY related), and that she “needed something lightweight” while writing her book. However, after having finished the book in September, she is on the hunt for full time employment. When she can find time for herself, she enjoys sewing, collaging, baking, cooking and even exercising.
The Studs and Pearls blogger is equally realistic. “Fashion is a rough industry to begin with,” she starts when prompted about blogging pressures, “but I just ignore the expectations. I consider myself more of a craft blogger with fashion tendencies. When I say ignore, I mean to just have fun with it.”
Instead of being affected by social media and her own social life, Nunez says that she “make[s] it a point to keep my private life out of social media-when people vent or express their feelings often online, it can reveal more than we think. So even then, I’m careful with what I say.”
Kirsten is passionate about continuing DIY through her life, and is unable to imagine life without it. However, she is still able to separate her “work time” and “personal time”, although she concedes that “it takes some time to learn how to do that. But it just comes down [to] stepping away from work once in a while and giving yourself a break.” Emphasizing this point, she adds, “It’s more important than we think.”
Besides continuing DIY for a living, Nunez says that she went to college (undergraduate and graduate) for nutrition, so she is extremely interested in health education and–on a larger scale–creative health efforts, especially “nutrition writing in the media”. She says that “The two can go hand-in-hand more than people think”, but as for an age deadline to be successful by, she shook her head at the question, saying, “I don’t have any of this set for a certain age or time…opportunities will come at the most random times and change the way you thought your life was going to pan out.”
As for tips to her readers or any aspiring DIYers, she encourages: “Don’t be afraid to try it. Way too many people are terrified of cutting something and putting it back together.” Perhaps the usual perfection from purchasing retail has made consumers afraid of visual defects. Handmade items, while more personal, oftentimes have slight imperfections since there is room for human error. They’re too concerned about it being “perfect”…but there really is no perfect project. The more you do it, the better at it you will be.” Nunez said.
“You have to start from somewhere.” she says.
Similarly, Grace Atwood, another DIY blogger, whose day job is to maintain the social media presence of popular jewelry website BaubleBar, remembers the the start of her passion and her blog, named Stripes and Sequins.
“[My first DIY was] a monogrammed tote bag,” She says, “I really wanted one from an online shop that I loved…but it was over $300. I decided to try my hand at making my own version.” She agrees that many DIYers start these projects because it is simply cheaper, while still giving the aspect of creating something for oneself.
For Atwood, she “wanted a way to hold myself accountable for doing something creative every week. Posting the tutorials to my blog was a fun way to do that.” In addition, her DIY projects are often inspired by famous designers. Her favorite project to date was “a mixed media collar, inspired by one that I had really wanted to buy from Lizzie Fortunato.”
Atwood is from Dennis, MA, near Cape Cod. Her social media work can be challenging sometimes, she says, but “it’s important to make a point to put the phone away and focus on living life in the real world versus on the phone or computer.” It was hard at first to separate “work time” with her “personal” time, but she’s found a balance as she grew more comfortable with her job and crafting.
She seems to agree with Nunez as she says that when DIYs seem too big to handle, she “put[s] the craft supplies down and tackle[s] something else.” For her own readers, Atwood says that “everyone can be a crafter too…it’s all about breaking things up into small steps.”
Doria Choi, a Hamilton Heights resident, art student, and occasional DIYer, mentions one of her greatest challenges in crafting, “Sometimes, the vision in my head is near-perfect, but it just doesn’t turn out the same.” She too, is a product of the retail consumerism that takes over the minds of many youths that try to create near-perfect copies with a personal twist. “But, I still continue to make these projects. I think it’s also important for my creative aspect [as an artist] to continue in this way”, she then said, “besides, having wonderful little things around the home that I made reminds me of my own talent and ability.”